This cornerback has good deeds well-covered
Nnamdi Asomugha walks contrary to what most believe his profession to be.
As the NFL has waded through an image crisis with its players’ off-field troubles, Asomugha has embodied everything commissioner Roger Goodell wishes them to be. As so many players used college as a means to turn pro, Asomugha not only embraced the experience, he has tried to pass it on.
And as some in football revel in its sleep-at-the-office culture, the game is merely a part of Asomugha’s life and not an all-consuming pursuit.
Suffice it to say, the blockbuster contract that the Raiders signed their star cornerback to in 2009 isn’t the only way that Asomugha has broken the mold.
“Among my priorities, football’s my career, and so it’d be faith, family — I’m not married yet, so that’s my immediate family — and it’s right there with those,’’ he said.
The difference between Asomugha and so many of his peers is that football itself doesn’t stand alone.
Perhaps the most impactful thing he does is his annual Asomugha College Tour for Scholars, which takes disadvantaged but high-achieving high school students to tour campuses in a faraway city. It was held in Boston in 2008, and has been in New York and Atlanta.
Asomugha has taken about 10 students on past tours, but this year’s jaunt, held in Washington (with stops at Georgetown, Howard, George Washington, and American), had 16 students. And while Asomugha took Bay area kids, as he has in the past, this year he also ran an essay contest at the three Los Angeles-area high schools he attended to include students from there.
“These kids in at-risk communities, if they want to think big, the environment they’re in doesn’t allow them to,’’ Asomugha said. “Leaving that particular environment gives them the chance to see something else. I don’t know that you can think big if you haven’t seen anything but your neighborhood. Some of the [Bay area] students haven’t even been to San Francisco, and that’s 20 minutes away.
“But if they get to see different cities and states, and these colleges, they learn to think differently. It gets them thinking in that direction, outside of the circumstances they’re in. That’s progressive thinking.’’
While he once hoped the tours would grow to 250 students, he has learned to value the personal time and has adjusted his goals to make it more of a full-service experience for these gifted kids. And he’s constantly augmenting and tweaking; this year, the kids played a few strings at the White House’s bowling alley.
But that’s hardly the only thing he’s working on. He stays very connected to his family’s charity, Orphans and Widows In Need, which helps orphans and widows in Nigeria, where his parents are from.
He also has built a relationship with Bill Clinton and helped with the former president’s efforts in education, becoming a speaker at the Clinton Global Initiative University the last two years. He says that relationship is a pretty natural one — “People talk about [Barack] Obama with basketball, but Clinton’s like that with football’’ — but one he doesn’t take for granted.
“I’m fortunate, grateful — I don’t know if there are enough words to describe it,’’ Asomugha said. “What helps is I don’t really think about it. It’s not a matter of being star-struck or in awe. It’s feeling inspired by these people.
“I think, ‘What can I gain from this? How can I make this relationship grow?’ ’’
His efforts haven’t gone unnoticed.
Asomugha received the Byron “Whizzer’’ White Award (for service to team, community, and country) from the NFL Players Association this year, and will be given the Jefferson Award for Public Service this month in Washington. He also received a letter lauding his efforts from Obama and hopes to finally meet the president during that trip to D.C.
So with all that on his plate, how in the world does he make time for football?
“I feel like when I’m not doing something, there’s someone else that is, and so A. I’m missing out and B. there’s someone that could benefit from my experience that isn’t,’’ Asomugha said.
“I don’t like sitting around. I get into all these things because I like doing them. It never seems like a lot. I hear that all the time — ‘You’re so busy and still playing football’ — but it never registers like that.’’
As for football, Asomugha is well aware of the 29-83 record the Raiders have posted in his seven years. He worries what effect a mark like that has.
“It’s your legacy,’’ he said.
But he also feels good about the direction of the team and thinks, finally, this could be the year a breakthrough comes.
Either way, the future from a personal standpoint looks bright for Asomugha.
He mentioned broadcasting and acting as possible future pursuits, eschewing the idea that he’s a politician-in-training.
And all that money he’s making? Asomugha is trying to invest wisely, hoping to someday be the owner of an NFL team, or a franchise in another sport.
But for now, he’ll continue to focus on making himself and those around him better. He’s hoping to sit down with Goodell to discuss how the league can better its players in these ways.
“I haven’t approached him yet,’’ he said. “But that definitely has to happen in the near future, because with all the different things they’ve done with the NFL and I’ve done, there’s a natural connection I’d have with the commissioner.’’
Something else on Asomugha’s plate? Chances are, he could handle it.
MORE FOR MOREY
Newest Seahawk plans for present and futureMarshfield’s Sean Morey (left) has lasted far longer in the NFL — 10 accrued seasons under his belt — than most thought he would.
Early in his career, he worked transient jobs (delivering furniture, working on a fishing dock) to stay available for coaches and keep his dream alive. He has won one Super Bowl (with Pittsburgh), played in another (for Arizona), and logged time for the Eagles.
As he packs his bags one more time, and heads off for Seattle — he signed a two-year deal this offseason — the challenge is different. Originally drafted by then-Patriots coach Pete Carroll in 1999, Morey will be expected to spread Carroll’s gospel, something he’s happy to do.
“It would’ve been easy to stay [in Arizona],’’ Morey said. “I’m leaving a locker room where I know guys’ kids’ names, their wives’ names. I was a captain, a Pro Bowler.
“But I just feel like Pete didn’t get a fair shake. The business being what it is, I don’t blame the Patriots, but I think Pete has the chance to do something great here.’’
So the 34-year-old special teams ace puts another city on his log, but it doesn’t mean he isn’t preparing for life outside football. One way he plans to do that is by giving back to the game. Morey was at a concussion summit last week in Washington to advocate for the health and safety of players.
“We’re trying to educate on the cumulative effects of head trauma, with repeated blows,’’ he said.
While that Brown degree could certainly open doors for Morey post-football, part of the plan is for his wife to pursue her goals. As he was building his career, his wife Cara sacrificed a dream to play Olympic hockey for Canada to support him and raise their daughters. So he hopes to give her the chance to teach and coach. He’d like to work with kids down the road, too. For now, finishing his football career right is paramount.
“I thought I’d be done years ago,’’ he said. “I just wanted to prove to myself I could do what people said I couldn’t.’’
DIVISION IS NO PROBLEM
Hands-on coach can do without coordinatorThe Patriots will enter the 2010 season without coordinators, and a quick look through NFL history shows that Bill Belichick (left) will likely be the first to do so since Jerry Glanville guided the Oilers in that fashion in the 1980s.
But just because no one has the title doesn’t mean the job won’t be taken care of. Quarterbacks coach Bill O’Brien has been in command in spring camps, and his acumen will be vital to Belichick’s plan to help out on the defensive side.
Nine teams played the 2009 season with the head coach assuming a coordinator-like role on one side. And it takes trust that the other side will be taken care of.
“If I had the chance to do it all over again, I would do the same exact thing, as long as you have someone you feel very, very comfortable with on offense,’’ said Cowboys secondary coach Dave Campo, the former Dallas head coach who worked under Wade Phillips in such an arrangement last year.
“He’s in charge of everything on game day, but over the course of things, he’s watching everything, but you have to have a guy that thinks the same way he does on offense. And that’s part of it.’’
So what are the benefits? Well, in Dallas, it became Phillips running the scheme he designed, and that streamlined communication. Captain Bradie James says, “He wouldn’t even let a minor misstep go. We did the simple things better. And right.’’
It can also be a way of establishing or, in the Patriots’ case, re-establishing a coach’s philosophy. When Pete Carroll got to USC in 2001, he chose to run the defense, because he felt like his ways would take root quicker.
“These guys were going to know who their head coach was, because I was going to coach the defense, I was going to install the stuff. I was going to be all over them,’’ Carroll said. “And not only the defense would know, but the offensive guys would know, too, because we’d beat the crap out of them in practice. And so they’d realize it, too. I needed them to follow.’’
Albert R. Breer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @albertbreer. Material from personal interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.